With the release of the fantastic new release from Lianne La Havas, I had to re-visit this album that came out at the beginning of the year, unfortunately in the UK only, from her collaborator Matt Hales, better known by his performing name Aqualung. It has been a favorite all year, but I've never had the chance to sit down and do a proper write-up.
Hales enjoyed chart success as Aqualung, reaching the Top 10 in the UK with 2002's "Strange And Beautiful" as well as scoring a US Adult Top 40 hit with "Brighter Than Sunshine". But after 2010's Magnetic North album, Hales focused more on writing and producing other artists with his shining moment coming in 2012. That year saw the release of Is Your Love Big Enough?, the debut album from Lianne La Havas that Hales co-wrote and produced.
The start of this year saw Hales return to his own music with the release of a new Aqualung album, 10 Futures. And now La Havas' second album Blood has arrived, with Hales once again co-writing and producing the majority of the tracks. I'll cover Lianne's album in another post, here we show some love to Aqualung's latest. Surely if you like the La Havas album you'll find something of interest on 10 Futures, especially since Lianne is featured on the lovely ballad "Eggshells". This was the track that introduced me to 10 Futures and it's a highlight. Hales' voice is electronically altered while Lianne's is left untouched in all its beauty. And the production is masterful, jazzy, a little trippy, yet gorgeous.
Although rather short at under 40 minutes, 10 Futures makes up for it with it's eclecticism. Opener "Tape 2 Tape", featuring Joel Compass on vocals, builds with electronic beats and effects of tape machines rewinding into a funky conclusion. "Be Beautiful" featuring Luke Sital-Singh is a pure pop song with an uplifting message and unshakable string riff. "Everything" is electronic experimentation personified and a collaboration with another of my favorites, SOHN.
"Hearts (SpinWheelOscillate)" is also not to be missed, a song that features contributions from Mikky Ekko, Kandace Springs and Prides plus an unforgettable chorus. And don't let "Eggshells" cause you to overlook the other ballads here. The piano based "Seventeens" bemoans what we've lost in human contact in this digital age while "Clean" features Sweet Billy Pilgrim and a near gospel feel. Every great album needs a great closer, and here Hales delivers with "To The Wonder", a song he says was inspired by a camping trip with his son, looking out into the stars at night. That description fits the song perfectly, a majestic, orchestral finale featuring Kina Grannis sharing vocal duty with Hales.
With the Aqualung album and now the new Lianne La Havas release, it has been a busy 2015 for Matt Hales, a year that finds two albums he was heavily involved with among my favorites. Lianne fans, do not overlook this Aqualung release.
Favorite tracks: "To The Wonder", "Eggshells", "Hearts (SpinWheelOscillate)", "Seventeens"
10 Futures was released in the UK January 19th, 2015 via BMG. It has not been released in the U.S to date.